The Interpersonal Economy

Building on how Stories Are the Study of Being, and combining it with The Very Heart of Fiction for this Workshop Wednesday, I present to you today the Interpersonal Economy.

It’s the idea that interpersonal relationships are like a marketplace where we trade value for value. And much like a marketplace, each individual holds a hierarchy of values that determine whether or not they do business with another. In a way, we are businesses in and of ourselves, and everyone else we interact with are like customers who we want to sell ourselves to.

And I’m not even talking about mere monetary gain where you buy some Pokemon cards off each other or whatever. I’m talking more about selling our ideas and values to others in order to see if we want to do business together. This can range from shared values like the appreciation of art, literature, or any other hobby you can think of. Going even deeper than that, we also want to trade value through the exchange of ideas. Ideas on how one should conduct their lives, their relationships, and contribute to society.

All of these things are values that we measure within our own lives and seek to find those who may either share our values or help improve them through civil discourse. I’m talking, of course, about conflict, which is another thing that is inevitable in the marketplace and in relationships.

Sometimes customers are not content with the service they get, and so the business has the responsibility to humbly receive criticism on how to improve how they serve their customers. That’s assuming that the business is at fault, though. Because on the flip side customers can sometimes mistreat a business due to a myriad of reasons. Maybe the customer is entitled and expects more than the business can actually provide, or maybe they hold a grudge for having been served poorly before.

Whatever the case may be conflict among humans are inevitable in the Interpersonal Economy.


Business Drama is Just Relationship Drama, but Fancier

If you’re planning to write a story with a memorable ensemble cast–or in the middle of it already–I would suggest creating a character web that shows how each character is connected to each other. You could do this with pen/pencil and paper or with a mind mapping program, but I personally prefer Scapple from Literature and Latte.

And no, I am not sponsored by them *wink wink, nudge nudge.* I just really love the writing programs they’ve made, most notably Scrivener for having met so many of my writing needs for many years now. But back to the post!

Creating a Mind Map of how your characters interconnect with each other and detailing what the cost/benefit analysis of their relationships will help you write more meaningful dialogue and plot points. When you know exactly how your characters benefit from each other and what their conflicts cost each other, it will make for deeper and more exciting drama.

What makes human relationships so interesting is how we can get under each other’s skin, yet somehow muster all the forgiveness in the world to keep certain individuals in our lives. For better or for worse. These are things that are hard to measure because several costs might be made up for in one big benefit. Or vice versa. One big cost can tarnish an otherwise seemingly beneficial relationship.

For example you might have a friend who you can air out your frustrations to and they’ll do the same for you, but other than that, you don’t offer each other much else other than free and half baked therapy for each other. There’s no fun in the relationship and there might not even be growth from the sharing of problems, rather the exacerbation of them.

This kind of cost/benefit analysis would be the cornerstone of conflict because people have very unique and individual goals and motivations that drive them, and more often than that, a conflict of interest arises when we have counter values from each other. If not similar values that are approached with methodologies different from our own.


Designing Your Interpersonal Economy

Taking a deeper look, here is an example of what an Interpersonal Economy mind map could look like, drawing straight from my 5th draft of It Starts at Home (which has evolved into a whole other monster and deserving of a new title since I last mentioned it here at Your Write to Live).

The new premise for “It Starts at Home” is that there are four juniors in high school who want to become professional gamers who want to win 1st in the international Atlantis Assault tournament.

Atlantis Assault is a 4v4, team based, first person shooter that is all the craze in the universe of my story. Each of these teens are equipped with their own anxieties about their futures after high school.

Pressured by their parents to succeed academically, and the one thing that brings hope and sparks joy in the lives of these teens is not only playing Atlantis Assault together, but the kind of friendships that develop between them in and out of the game. Both as individuals and as a group.

Each character is designated a specific color, so whenever that color pops up in another character’s web of influence, it’s detailing a cost or benefit of their relationship with each other. Some costs and benefits are recurring and that points to how that one person has the same effect on different people.

You will notice that some of these are tagged with either a + or – and occasionally a +/-. That is describing whether or not the effect one character has another is positive or negative, or maybe even both as a lot of trades of value in relationships end up being double edged swords like any other good cost/benefit analysis could give insight to.


Your Interpersonal Economy and You

Your Write to Live has always been about providing fiction writing tips that could also apply to your real life if you pursue self knowledge and personal development. It is my belief that fiction writing (and reading for that matter) is our way of understanding ourselves and the world better. It’s through these larger than life characters we draw inspiration from to become better people who act in good faith in the world.

So with that said, I encourage you to create Interpersonal Economy mind maps for both your fictional and real life ensembles. For your work of fiction, it will help you heighten the drama by creating well crafted characters with nuanced relationships. For your real life, it could give you a better understanding of how valuable your relationships are and where they might need some work.

After all, stories are fundamentally the expression of human relationship, and it’s through them we come to understand our place in the world

Did you find this post helpful?

Do you have any thoughts and criticisms about the Interpersonal Economy?

Is this the kind of content you would like to see more of here at Your Write to Live?

Leave a comment below and let me know!

The Shadow Journal

If you remember a while back, oh let’s say four years ago, I wrote about the benefits of keeping a Progress Journal.

The purpose of a Progress Journal is to keep track of your ideas for either a work in progress or an array of ideas you may want to use at another time.

Today I want to introduce to you a spiritual successor to it called The Shadow Journal. (And for those of you who have been reading since 2014, I sincerely thank you for your readership!)


Giving Your Shadow Side a Megaphone

This month I’ve been obsessed with confronting and integrating my shadow side and during my journey through, I also want to provide helpful writing practices that integrate your shadow.

When I first conceived the idea of The Progress Journal, it literally was used for freely expressing my ideas, both good and bad, in order to separate the wheat from the chaffe. Eventually, though, writer’s block reared its ugly head much more prominently the more I discovered ways to combat it.

While I only alluded to it in my 2014 post, I want to elaborate more on a simple, but profound idea now in 2018:

Write your most deepest, darkest, disturbing fears.

About yourself, your stories, and the world around you.

We all have doubts that hold us back from progressing in life and our passions, possibly due to an excess of pessimism, and often times it’s due to not acknowledging they exist. Maybe you’re like me and choose to overshoot the optimism in an attempt to override the pessimism. It’s obvious how dibilitating pessimism can be, but so can optimism when not balanced with reason and logic.

So instead of looking at pessimism as an enemy, maybe you could try welcoming it as an inconvenient, yet helpful ally. It may have valid reasons to prevent you from writing what you want to write, or maybe it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

Whatever the case may be, you may never know unless you take the time to confront your Shadow Side, the source of your resistance. Write down every single negative thought that it fills your head with and let it out of your system.

Maybe your Shadow Side thinks your story sucks. Maybe your Shadow Side thinks you’re not capable of writing something as good as you intend. Or maybe your Shadow Side just thinks you’re an absolute waste of life who has no right to write.

Now while I am here to be the guy to tell you that it is Your Write to Live, I think you can never truly appreciate life unless you come to accept that death is its eventual end.

Writing Prompt #1: For 10-15 minutes, or for however long as you need to, let your Shadow Side say all the nasty things it says to your mind on a daily basis. Don’t let it hold back. Let it say the worst possible things and give it the space to voice its opinion.

Confronting Your Shadow Side

Now while it is incredibly discomforting to do this, believe it or not, this is what I have to do every time I sit down and write my novel. I let all of my fears and doubts out on the digital page so that it no longer lingers in my mind.

If you’re familiar with Carl Jung’s theory on repression, many writers are actually victims of their own repression. It’s the reason why so many don’t get published, let alone even let themselves begin on a project.

So once I’ve let my Shadow Side say what it needs to, I allow it to make me feel like absolute crap, but only one last time.

Because then I examine its opinions and compare it to the evidence as I reasonably can. While there’s no way to ever objectively determine what the truth is about the world and myself, the most educated hypothesis, tested through and through, is the best shot we’ve got at making sense of the chaos of existence.

I’m not going to lie, there have been a handful of times where I truly believed what my Shadow Side said and ended up staying in my rut. I’ve written stand alone Shadow Journals and chose not to work on my novel at all because I truly believed in giving up.

But more often than not, I come out victorious because I confront my Shadow Side head on. I listen to what it has to say and maybe it’s right, maybe I do have to do the tough thing and start a chapter all over again, or even kill a character and remove their role from the entire story. Hell, it’s actually thanks to my Shadow Side that I’m on the fourth draft of It Starts: at Home since it tells me that I can do way better than my most recent attempt at a draft.

Hell even right now my Shadow Side says I shouldn’t be hyperlinking to my second draft chapter sample because it’s so baseless and contains little to no significant plot elements.

But then my optimism is hard pressed to remind me that it at least encapsulates the chemistry between my lovely young protagonists. After all, I have it up on my site for a reason as a comparison for what I am capable of writing now. It’s a sign of my growth as a writer to humbly remember where I came from.

So be tough, but fair with yourself.

Writing Prompt #2: Take that same Shadow Journal entry and consider what your Shadow Side had to say about you and your work. What things are they right about and what are they absolutely wrong about? Take what they’re right about and improve, and prove them wrong on every other front. I promise you will come out feeling stronger and much more confident with yourself…


…Until Tomorrow, Of Course

Now here’s some good and bad news:

A one time Shadow Journal entry is not enough to keep your confidence up.

You may have to do it once in a while or every day.

Whatever the case may be for you, I’d suggest accepting and appreciating this push and pull between yourself and your muse. Whenever your Shadow Side gets in the way, let it. Maybe it’s just a child conceived by yourself and your muse that simply needs a gentle guiding hand to comfort and civilize it.

Feedback and critcisms are always welcome so feel free to tell me if this post, or any of my other posts have helped you out. 

Or maybe I suck ass and I need some “brave” keyboard warrior troll to remind me of that.

Either way, leave a comment below and I will see you guys next week!

Playing Tag With Your Shadows

It’s Recess Time and We Need More Players!

Earlier this week, For Meaningful Mondays, I wrote “a little bit” about how I’ve been learning to integrate my shadow.

Today, I will share how Playing Tag With Your Shadows can inform your writing.

More particularly, how you craft your characters so that they can become multi-dimentional beings that pop out of the page.

Whether you’re writing a protagonist or antagonist, it is important to give them a dark side that isn’t dark for the sake of being dark. You want to make their malevolence understandable and rooted in believable reasoning–no matter how horribly they will behave in your story.

Audiences these days are starting to catch on to how lazy and boring stock villains are. You know the kind, the ones that wake up in the morning and wonder if there’s a cute little puppy somewhere out there that they can kick for sake of being evil. There’s a time and place for such a generic villain, but the villain (or even protagonist) that I will help you create today could massacre that generic villain into oblivion.

So be prepared for a very unconventional type of writing exercise that isn’t your run of the mill plot graph or haiku practice. We’re going to dig deep into your discomfort, and use all those disgusting and disturbing feelings inside you for your benefit. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be grateful that you even have them in the first place!


Tag, You’re It!

The most common writing advice is “write what you know,” and so in regards to crafting a malevolent and sympathizable villain, or even a flawed hero, you need to guage how well you know yourself. Here’s how you do it:

Keep a journal, if you don’t already. It’s a useful tool in taming the chaotic mind.

In order to create genuine darkness in your characters, you need to first understand the darkness that dwells within you. What kinds of disgusting and disturbing thoughts enter your mind on a daily basis? What causes them? Are they of your own making or are they reactions to circumstance?  These are the kinds of thoughts that you usually keep to yourself and have, for better or for worse, not told anybody if not for a handful people (possibly even a professional clinician).

Whether you feel guilt, shame, or embarassment, write them down and explore them. Take the time to understand why you may think and feel this way at times. Most importantly, don’t hold back on saying what you really want to say. If you feel yourself thinking “that’s too harsh, I shouldn’t say that,” then actually say it. Give your shadow the space to express itself.

Maybe you’re grieving the loss of somebody you loved, or even hated, and have yet to process what your relationship to them has meant to you.

Maybe there’s somebody in your life that you love, but for some reason often get frustrated with because you either haven’t told them why or you don’t even know why yet.

Or maybe somebody wronged you in the past. A family member, a friend, or a lover has hurt you and you hold a grudge against them.

Writing Prompt #1: In your journal, write about a person or situation that often stirs up negative feelings in you. What kinds of irrational and dangerous things do you fantasize yourself doing in order to have your emotions be known? Don’t actually do them, but write them down no matter how horrible they may seem. The worse, the better.

“Tag. Now You Are the One Who is It”
“Understood…”

If you thought understanding your own dark and disturbing thoughts was hard enough, try this even more difficult exercise:

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has hurt you, or someone who you simply cannot stand for hurting others. Or maybe they haven’t hurt anybody at all, and it’s just their entire mode of being itself that disturbs you (like US President Donald Trump).

These are real everyday people just like us. They have their own troubles and concerns, and in their minds, they too are the heroes of their own stories. Whether we agree with them or not is not important, but what is important is understanding where they’re coming from.

Everybody has their own reasons, no matter how rational or irrational, for doing what they do. Everybody is driven by their own goals and motivations, and often times those goals and motivations just so happen to be misaligned with the opinions and values of others. Everybody hurts; everybody gets hurt.

You know the saying, “bad guys are just sad days.”

Or better yet, to quote one of my favourite lines from Netflix’s Daredevil series, “you’re just one bad day away from becoming me.” It’s what The Punisher says to Daredevil when Daredevil argues for why he has never and never will murder criminals.

So maybe these people you can’t stand have been hurt themselves and are acting out their hurt in a way that’s inconvenient, if not downright disturbing to you. Maybe they get on your nerves because they lack basic self-awareness of how undesirable their behaviour is. Or better yet…they remind you of yourself.

Sometimes the criticism we have for others is criticism we need to apply to ourselves so can ultimately improve. After all, it’s so much easier to see fault in others and wish they would change rather than admitting to our own faults and actually doing the work.

Writing Prompt #2: Put yourself in the shoes of someone you dislike despise. Try and see if you can understand why they might have done what they did to you or others, or simply why they might be the way they are. Again, the worse they are, the better. And if you can ascribe understandable reasons on their part, whether they are close to the possible truth or not is not what’s important. The important thing is to see if ou you can empathize even with the worst of people so that you can create villains who people will understand.*

*Understanding where someone’s coming from is not condoning their actions. It’s simply the difficult, yet very important practice of admitting to our own human follies. That we are all flawed, make mistakes, and misunderstand things at times.


Game Over, Man!

I originally intended on a third writing prompt, but I think keeping it at a more local and personal level was the best way to go about this Workshop Wednesday. The third method of integrating your shadow in your writing is a lot more abstract and impersonal, and you can feel free to request it of me for a future article, but for now this is what I impart to you:

Dig deep into the darkest parts of yourself and understand it, and on the flipside, take the time to understand the people you usally perceive as disgusting and disturbing. Maybe you’re more alike than you think, and that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe they reflect parts of yourself that you repress and being aware of these parts can help you keep them under better control.

If you found this lesson helpful, please feel free to share it with others who you think can benefit from it and leave a comment below if you have any feedback or criticisms!

 

 

Sprouting Symbols in Stories

Planting the Symbolic Seeds

We’re all pattern recognition machines. Whenever we experience repetition through objects, places, and actions, they implant an impression in our minds to create future expectations. And within getting those expectations met, the reward system in our brains releases dopamine, making us feel not only a sense of joy, but also a sense of comfort and familiarity.

This is why babies love when you play Peek-A-Boo with them. When you cover your face with your hands or hide behind the couch, they expect you to “pop up out of nowhere” and make a silly face that gets them giggling their cute little baby laughs.

In fiction, you want to do the same thing. You want to play a literary form of Peek-A-Boo through Symbolic Action. A reoccuring object, place, or action engages your audience’s sense of familiarity and by letting them feel safe from an expected routine, you are given the opportunity to also trigger the part of the human brain that thrives on novelty.

Or simply put; you want to mix the new with the old.

What this does is symbolize how an aspect of your story is progresses over time. This can range from how an important plot item is used throughout the story, the state of a physical location your characters frequent, or how characters relate to each other through repetitive actions.


Papa Can You Hear Me?

Today we’ll focus on reoccuring actions and how they symbolize ever changing relationships between characters. In particular, I will be using the father and daughter combo from my work in progress It Starts at Home; Antonio and Johanna Pascual.

The story starts off with Antonio blasting his heavy metal music as he drives Johanna to her first day of high school. He just wants to drop her off and go to work, unaware of how nervous she is, and thanks to the rockin’ tunes he’s so used to pumping on every car ride, he’s even more oblivious to how reluctant she is to start this new chapter in her life.

She wishes she could say something. That she’s not ready yet and wants to stay home for the day. Or worse, that she actually feels sick to her stomach and is unsure if she can physically manage herself in this new environment.

Johanna tries to speak up, but her tiny voice is buried beneath pounding drums and distorted guitars, and all that Antonio can offer her is yelling “you’ll be fine,” before returning to his mini headbanging session. She keeps trying to complain and his solution is to remind her to not be afraid and be sure to make new friends.

Needless to say, Johanna ends up feeling ignored and down right invisible.

What this symbolizes is the distance between father and daughter, even though Antonio drives Johanna around quite often. The fact that Antonio chooses to listen to the noisy music of his own teen days over the soft tiny voice of his teenage daughter comes to show their giant lack of communication between each other.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Throughout the book, similar car rides occur where Johanna has a desire to communicate with her father, but the metal music continues to serve as a point of contention between them. He uses it to drown out the nagging voice of his wife and the whiny voice of his daughter, both of which have valid things to say to him, but tension rises the more he attempts to ignore them.

Furthermore, his wife Miranda is actually offended by his choice in music. Because she immigrated to Canada from a traditional Filipino family, and that she met Antonio at a youth church group, she feels that Antonio is listening to “the devil’s music” which clashes with their Christian values.

Over time though, Antonio gradually learns to put the volume down when the ladies in his family are speaking to him. Most of the time it’s much to his detriment, but it’s a hard pill of pride to swallow to actually start listening to his family. And even on the flip side, for his family to respect his preferences because Johanna and Miranda spend a huge chunk of the novel judging him for everything he likes.


Reaping What You Sow With Symbols

Along with my favourite aspect of fiction being character, I have recently fallen in love with recognizing symbols and how they can serve as tools to further describe the progress of a story. It greatly reflects how our lives change over time despite some of the routines we engage in from childhood up into our adult lives.

Think about how you celebrate your birthday compared to how you used to when you were a child. Sure, cake and candles are the staple of every birthday celebration, but as you depart from your childhood you outgrow the need for face painting, clowns, and bouncy castles. (Unless you still do face painting, clowns, and bouncy castles well into your 20’s, I won’t judge!)

To celebrate and symbolize your ongoing maturity you begin to add different elements to your birthday parties like alcohol, expensive vacations, or whatever else floats your boat.

Likewise in fiction, you want to use symbols to implant familiarity in your audience and take them on a ride toward growth by letting your symbols sprout.

Are there any symbols that you appreciate in your favourite stories?

Have you used symbols before? Upon reflection, were consciously or unconsciously planted?

With expanded knowledge on symbols, do you plan to employ them in your work? If so, how so? Let me know in the comments below!

(Stay tuned for more on symbols in the future…)

NaNoRouMo

Routines!

They are incredibly important for thriving during NaNoWriMo.

You gotta establish one.

Why? Because creating a routine for yourself can help you with consistently getting pen to paper on a daily basis. And more importantly, getting the 1667 daily word count down with a lot less resistance than you would without a routine.

Now, if you’re a writer who can easily buckle down and write those 1667+ words, then massive praises to you because I envy you. However, if you’re a procrastinator like me, or just someone who needs a little extra push to get motivated, then this post is for you.

So here’s a routine that worked for me and why engaging in these particular activities helped me stay focused when writing for NaNoWriMo last year. Mind you, I didn’t follow this to a tee, as it did waver from time to time, swapping one activity for the other when it didn’t work out.

1. Do something physical!

What normally worked for me was doing yoga in the morning. whether I woke up at 5am ready to take on the day with all the motivation in the world, or 12pm feeling a bit of resistance toward writing (because it got harder over time), yoga helped me keep my body from feeling restricted.

Since writing is normally an activity you do sitting down, you can risk cutting blood flow throughout your body and letting muscles tense up being in the same position for extended periods of time. It’s important to get a stretch and/or full work out to keep your body active because the mind and body affect each other. They are not mutually exclusive, and one cannot work without the other.

After getting all stretched out and sweaty, I would then take an ice cold shower to invogorate my senses.

This sounds scary to some people, but I assure you I didn’t start off cold right away, that would be too shocking. It’d be warm water for the hair and skin care part of showering, and then when that was done I would turn the knob down a bit until I felt a jolting chill go throughout my body.

If you have worked up a sweat from your work out, the cold shower wouldn’t be too hard to settle into. Actually it’s pretty refreshing and teaches you to slow down your breathing in order to endure.

This challenging of the self to withstand discomfort primes you to withstand the discomfort of writing. Not the physical part, but the mental part as I’m sure you will find yourself focusing on nothing but how freaking cold the water is.

2. Eat some gooooooood food!

I have phases where I prefer pancakes in the morning, scrambled eggs with home fries, or a simple bread with spread, along with the complimentary coffee.

After yoga, I would feel incredibly hungry and much able to really enjoy my meal, again getting my mind off writing and focusing on nurturing myself first.

Then the coffee of course is the staple drink of writers, whether you pound back pot upon pot, or need one little mug to get you going. It feels good to have something warm and tasty to sip on while I wrote.

Whatever it is for you; coffee, tea, or even a smoothie, get a drink or snack that you can sip and/or munch on while you write. This creates the association in your brain that that drink goes hand in hand with writing. Literally.

3. Write!

Write your ass off.

No further words needed.

4. Treat yoself!

As I said in my post last week, you gotta treat yourself!

Whether you pump out 5000 words or 500 by the end of your writing session, be sure to reward yourself with your favourite recreational activity.

For me it was gaming! I liked playing Brawlhalla, something that requires mostly muscle memory and reaction speed to play, as opposed to anything else that would be intellectually daunting.

For you it might be playing with your children if you have some, or binging your favourite show on Netflix. For others it could be hanging out with some friends and partying.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something easily available to you so that you can prime yourself to expect it at the end of a writing session.

5. Be kind to yourself.

And as always, this post is about self love at its core.

Writers put a lot of pressure on themselves to write compelling fiction and often doubt themselves if what they’re writing does not match the ambition they have in their head. We often feel imposter syndrome thinking “who am I to write this story?” Among another myriad of typical self doubting thoughts I will cover next week.

But for now I will leave you with this suggestion to form a routine.

You obviously don’t have to do yoga, eat what I eat, and play video games like me. And it doesn’t have to be in this order. You can even go far as to treat yourself first if you feel like you can honour that self indulgence with a productive writing session.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can manage on mostly everyday you possibly can, and brings you the equivelant joy and motivation your NaNoWriMo project deserves!